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- An Essay on Laughter, by James Sully; a Project Gutenberg ebook.;
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Its Forms, Its Causes, Its Development, and Its Value
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Your rating has been recorded. Write a review Rate this item: 1 2 3 4 5. Preview this item Preview this item. IS it possible to get at a working hypothesis as to the cause of laughter,—to be able to explain, that is, in terms how.
Catalog Record: An essay on laughter; its forms, its causes, | HathiTrust Digital Library
No more thorough answer—though perhaps no com. Longmans and Co. Professor Sully is not the first writer, of course, to propound a " theory of laughter," but he is perhaps the first, so far as we are concerned, to give us something near a satis.
The theories he discusses, and to which he finds an answer, fall in the main under two headings. First comes the " theory of degradation. We laugh at a clown, we are told, because his antics give us a self-satisfied feeling that we, at all events, do not make fools of ourselves by diving through trap-doors and brandishing strings of sausages. That is an extreme instance; but we might, again, conceivably be held to laugh at a " good story" about an acquaintance because at the end of it we feel pleased to think that in similar circumstances we should have shown greater restraint or acuteness ; we can see, at any rate, what our friend might have done and did not do, and we like to say to ourselves that we should have done it.
We feel, in fact, superior to him, and we laugh in pleasure at the thought of his indignity. That is the first theory. The second theory is one which was held to a greater or less degree by Kant and Schopenhauer.
An Essay on Laughter: Its Forms, Its Causes, Its Development and Its Value by Sully
According to Kant, laughter is due to "an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing. The greater the incongruity, the more violent lieftiger will be our laughter. It is, as Professor Sully shows, impossible to adopt un- reservedly either of these theories of degradation and incon- gruity. There is no single cause of laughter; there are forms and degrees of laughter which do not admit of a common explanation.
It is true that both theories will account, or partly account, for a large number of forms of laughter; but there are some forms which it is difficult to explain upon almost any hypothesis. Perhaps we can get nearest to a general explanation, however, by combining the two theories. Take a few of the commoner occasions on which a man laughs, and take first the " good story" told of an acquaintance, or of a familiar type of human being; the story, for instance, familiar to everybody, of the Englishman and the Frenchman, or the Irish maker of "bulls.
Not always, surely, because we imagine ourselves mentally superior to the persons of whom the stories are told, but often because there is a certain incongruity between the beginning and the ending which takes us by surprise. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.
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- Encyclopædia Britannica/Sully, James - Wikisource, the free online library.
- An Essay On Laughter, Its Forms, Its Cau.
Sully, James. Publisher: Nabu Press ,